How much are council savings programmes delivering?
PUBLISHED: 05:24 20 December 2019 | UPDATED: 07:31 20 December 2019
More savings are to come from a series of transformation programmes of key council services, finance chiefs have said.
Suffolk County Council is in the second year of its nine four-year transformation programmes, some of which are designed to save money while others aim to improve services and change embedded cultures.
According to a council report prepared for this week's scrutiny committee, the 'learning disabilities and autism' programme is on course to deliver £5million in savings by April, meaning it is likely to exceed the £5.74m four year target.
Managing social care demand last year saved £6.7m against an £11m target, but bosses are eyeing further progress of £8.9m this year.
In 'children in care' the council has avoided costs of £2.55m since April 2017 and the 'travel choices' programme has delivered £1.2m, according to council data.
Conservative cabinet member for finance, Gordon Jones, said: "Some are performing as we expected and some are taking longer, but I think it's right that we consistently review in this changing world how we deliver these services.
"There is great momentum in both adult and children's services to deliver better ways of working."
Other transformation programmes which aim to improve the service but don't have a goal of making savings include alliances between health and social care and other services, special educational needs and disabilities, alliances of children and young people services with others, digital measures and commercial performance.
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However, the council's scrutiny raised concerns that there was not enough evidence to indicate whether the programmes were successful.
Labour group leader Sarah Adams said: "We must not lose sight of fact that these transformation programmes should be delivering better public services, not simply generating financial savings.
"So far, we have received precious little indication of whether the programmes have met their targets or achieved intended outcomes. Whilst we, as part of the scrutiny committee, attempted to scrutinise the progress of these programmes, no hard evidence or data was provided in order to properly pass judgement.
"Whatever the successes or failures of these programs might be, the fact that scrutiny has been made virtually impossible, through a lack of information, is very concerning.
"The best Christmas present for the people of Suffolk would be a council producing great, value for money results for our residents - but we'll need to see the evidence of that first."
Penny Otton, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, said: "I think it's really important to not only focus on financial savings - if we're talking about 'transformation', we need to also think about how to actually improve our services and the lives of Suffolk residents.
"Having said that, the Conservative administration is claiming that the transformation programmes will provide huge savings and is relying on this to prop up its budget.
"The problem is that these savings aren't actually being realised, especially in adult services where the main programme missed its savings target by £4.3m.
"That is a huge risk for the council's budget, and suggests something isn't going to plan. The council must first invest in staff and resources to properly 'transform' our services for the better, rather than just talking about savings."